Game on! Tentative deal reached to end lockout

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The NHL lockout finally came to an end in the early morning hours Sunday in a New York City hotel ballroom following a marathon 16-hour negotiating session.

After six long months of negotiations, a tentative deal was reached at 5 a.m. to end the 113-day lockout. Training camps are slated to open this week and there will be either a 50 or 48-game season that will begin as early as Jan. 15 and as late as Jan. 19.

Before the new CBA officially comes into effect, it must be ratified by a majority of both the league’s 30 owners and the union’s membership.

“We have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told a news conference. “We’ve got to dot a lot of i’s and cross a lot of t’s. There’s still a lot of work to be done but the basic framework of the deal has been agreed upon.”

Said Donald Fehr, executive director of the NHL Players’ Association: “Hopefully within a very few days the fans can get back to watching people who are skating, not the two of us.”

Neither side announced any details of the deal, but The Canadian Press reported that according to a source it’s a 10-year agreement with an opt-out option after eight years. It also includes defined benefit pensions for the players as well as a $64.3-million salary cap in 2013-14.

The pro-rated salary cap for this season will be $70.2 million and the Canadiens have 23 players under contract for a total cap hit of $63.9 million.

Reported Bruce Arthur of Postmedia News: “The particulars look like this: It’s a 10-year deal with an opt-out for either side after eight, so it guarantees labour peace until at least 2020. The two sides will split revenue 50-50, with US$300-million in make-whole money to cover contracts already signed. The players have strengthened their pensions, which are defined benefit plans with the majority of responsibility placed on the NHL. Pensions became the signature issue of the talks, and were agreed to in the early hours of the morning. Players said the settlement issue truly gave the talks some real momentum, and at that point they realized there might be a deal that night.”

Arthur also reported that the NHL “will see term limits on player contracts for the first time, with players limited to seven-year deal if they sign with another team, and eight years with their own team. There will be two compliance buyouts per team, which will spur some serious player movement.”

Arthur added: “Teams can spend up to US$70.2-million this year, and the cap in 2013-14 will be US$64.3-million, which is closer to what the players wanted to begin the day than what the owners wanted. The floor, both years, will be US$44-million. The cap is also guaranteed not to fall below US$64.3-million in subsequent years. Contract variance from year-to-year will be limited to 35%, and can never drop below 50% of the highest year of any deal, which puts contracts in a box.”

Arthur added there are a number of issues which still need to be agreed to, including the Olympics, though NHL participation seems likely.

Read more by clicking here.

Read Arthur’s column by clicking here.

Now the nearly 200 NHLers who had been playing in Europe during the lockout will be heading back home and will have a big advantage after playing games for the last three months. Read more by clicking here.

Here is some of the reaction from Canadiens players on Twitter:

Colby Armstrong (@armdog): ”Thanks to fans for hanging in there. Exciting time for all you fans. The best game in the world is back. Go Habs Go!!! Hell ya!! Love it.”

Brandon Prust (@BrandonPrust8): ”Is anybody ready for some hockey? Man this is gonna be good”

Josh Gorges (@jgorges26): ”Today is a good day!!! I just want to say thanks to all the fans who have supported us thru this and been waiting patiently… You guys are the best!!”

Max Pacioretty (@MaxPacioretty67): ”Great day and great start to the new year. Hoping for a great season now for our team”

Owner Geoff Molson (@GMolsonCHC): ”On joue au hockey! Let’s play hockey!”

 From former Hab Hal Gill (@Skillsy75): ”48-50 game season? That means the fans who do come back are in for a treat!”

From former Hab Sheldon Souray (@SSouray): “Ahhhh, the sun FINALLY came out for real this morning!!”

From CBC’s Don Cherry (@CoachsCornerCBC): ”For all you people that are going to watch NHL hockey this year, make no mistake about it, you’re watching it because of Gary Bettman… Bettman was the guy that had to pull the trigger whether this was done or not. He saved the season.”

From player agent Allan Walsh (@walsha): ”On behalf of my clients and all NHL players, THANK YOU DON FEHR. You did an fantastic job and the players appreciate all your efforts.”

From country-music superstar Carrie Underwood (@CarrieUnderwood), who is married to the Predators’ Mike Fisher: ”Well, folks, hockey is back! Very bittersweet…I just lost my purse holder but gained cheering on my hot husband as he kicks butt!”

And from former Canadien Chris Nilan (@KnucklesNilan 30): First game in every NHL city should be a freebie for the fans

You can follow Twitter updates from The Gazette’s Dave Stubbs by clicking here.

The Canadiens posted a Game On! video on their website. Check it out by clicking here.

TSN will air a Game On Special tonight at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET.

(Photo by Phil Carpenter/The Gazette)

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